Are punters reading this one right?
With the Tories keen to keep up the Manchester momentum David Cameron is heading back to Bedford tomorrow where what will almost certainly be the biggest electoral test anywhere before the general election takes place on Thursday.
At the stake is a by-election for one of the “US-style” mayor posts. There’s an electorate of 117,000 and there’s been a whole stream of leading politicians heading there in the past week. The only main party leader to skip it has been Mr. Brown.
There’s been an active betting market at Ladbrokes with some big changes today coinciding with the first and only TV debate involving the candidates. The Tory, Parvez Akhtar, who was the 1/2 odds-on favourite has now moved out to 5/4 with the Lib Dem, Dave Hodgson, the new favourite at 4/5.
The Martin Bell-backed independent is at 8/1 with Labour at 16/1.
My reading is that like other elected mayoral battles this is much less party political than standard elections. Rather it is about the voters’ view of the person who will be the public face of the borough controlling a budget of a third of a billion pounds.
So who is going to win? I think that, as the betting odds suggest, this is for once really a two horse race between the Tory and the Lib Dem. There’s not much between them and the outcome will be determined by turnout and how the second preferences split.
The Tories would love to maintain their “big mo” while the Lib Dems are hungry for a success following their disappointing run of Westminster by-election performances.